Orange Shirt Day is a movement dating back to 2013 which encourages schools and the public to wear orange shirts and discuss the effects of residential schools and the legacy they have left behind. The date was chosen as it is the time of year when children were taken from their homes to residential schools. It also marks the beginning of the school year, and reaffirms that every child matters.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was designated a federal statutory holiday in 2021. Programming and actions include Truth and Reconciliation Week, a bilingual educational program open to all schools across Canada and a national commemorative gathering.
Learning about the harmful history of residential schools in Canada can lead to strong emotions, thoughts and feelings. Be kind to yourself – it is normal to feel this way. Take time to walk outside, take slow deep breaths, and reach out to a friend or family member to talk about what you are feeling or learning about.
If you are a residential school survivor or family, you can call a 24/7 support line:
In 1973, six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school, but the Mission Oblates took her shirt away, and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.
Phyllis Webstad is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band) and is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society.
Phyllis shared her story in May 2013, when the St. Joseph Mission Commemoration Project and Reunion brought residential school survivors and their families together at Williams Lake, British Columbia. From this event, Phyllis and the organizers went on to make Orange Shirt Day a nationally recognized day of commemoration, remembrance, teaching and healing.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was created through a legal settlement between Residential Schools Survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and the parties responsible for creation and operation of the schools: the federal government and the church bodies.
The TRC’s mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools. The TRC concluded its mandate in 2015 and transferred its records to the safekeeping of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also created a short document with 94 calls to action. Every member of society has a role to play in bringing these actions forward. The actions relate to Child Welfare, Education, Language and Culture, Health, and Justice.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that 80,000 survivors of residential schools live in all regions of Canada today, and many other faiths and cultures have suffered in our borders, too.
“Learning and commemorating the truth of our history from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit knowledge keepers is an important part of the path to Reconciliation.”
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation:
Continue to listen and learn from Indigenous voices. These resources provide information about how the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission apply to you and your community.